Right Speech

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.


The eight-fold path and its relationship to the precepts.

Auto-Generated Transcript

go to the remember and except
the taste the to have a heart attack at first

good morning everyone
welcome to zen center
i'd like to talk this morning about right speech
which is
generally the it's the fourth of the
well eightfold path that the
buddha laid out now on this path is the
the path of finding freedom the passive
living a sane useful courageous life
and add some as blanche saw pointed out to me this morning there's a there's the uk a rate ordination ceremony here this afternoon in which some people will be taking the precepts and that i'm three of the precepts are const
learn directly with this this topic of right speech
i wanted to it as a way of framing had to talk about right speech i wanted to present to different poems or stories are public cases and one is a a very traditional then call on that many of
you have probably heard of and one is a call on that i i suspect that
when of you have heard of as a cohen since i've made it up
but you may have heard of it as a as a common expression on which i'm kind of i don't know if i'm initiating or not maybe i am initiating into the world of cohen ship the the traditional on and again i'm i'm wanting to frame this all in the subject of read speech
the cohen is a monk asked em on what is the teaching of an entire lifetime what is the teaching of an entire lifetime and man replied an appropriate response
so what is the teaching of an entire lifetime room on replied an appropriate response
and then the second the second column
is what do you get when you squeeze an orange
the answer is obvious you get orange juice
do i need to say anymore about either of either of these
what i love what i love and what when i love about both of these columns is i think how
how well they worked together
right so
what is the teaching of an entire lifetime and appropriate response
is is a tremendous
impetus and to
to be able to respond appropriately right it has the it has the feeling that that you can learn that you can really learn to check that you can changed that you can through through on the one hand and saying that this is
a lifetime of work right that this is not this is not something that you ever can rest in this is a lifetime endeavor but it's the lifetime endeavored to be able to respond appropriately
i i would say a authentically and in each situation
i find myself
i i've been i feel like i've come out of the closet recently and i've been more and more taking zen practice into the world of business and and i find that one of the first things that i need to do is define what what i mean by then and i've i've found that
i i generally say that my definition of zen practice is to the practice of developing a responsive and flexible mind
and keeping your heart open
developing a responsive and flexible mind and keeping your heart open and this this i think is a lifetime practice and this is what know months
reminds reflection of man's guidance about right speech is that
developing the ability to respond appropriately isn't it is the practice is the teaching of an entire lifetime
and then moving over to when you squeeze in orange
you get orange juice
has this has as feeling of
that whatever whatever is inside of you that's what will come out with whoever whoever it is you are most deeply that is what you will say and that is how you will respond that it's not it's a buddhist practice zen practice it's not about
learning these are that these are the ten ways that you should respond in these situations that
the thrust is to work on yourself to work on you as as a particular orange so that in any situation when squeezed what will come out is the kind of orange juice that you want to come out not that you know not that yucky that yucky
stale orange juice
but that fresh organic orange juice
that that you what you that it's having an intention having an intention of the kind of person that you want to be the kinds of things that you that you want to say that you want to respond in a way that is fresh and open and
and appropriate and against i'm bouncing i'm bouncing back and forth between these two
these two cohen's and appropriate response and this reminds me a lot of what the a chant that's chanted here every morning the heart sutra rich points to know it says things like no eyes no ears no knows no tongue
nobody no mind no no old age and death bennett says and also know extinction of them
so it's kind of it's it's a little bit it's a little bit mind boggling what that means some trying to i'm trying to frame this to make this my my my intention is to make what feels like he's very complicated ideas
much more accessible and usable
and i find it in some way each of these coins
i'm quite are quite wonderful and simple what is the teaching of an entire lifetime an appropriate response and what do you get when you squeeze in orange
orange juice and i
so right right speech is both
something that we can we can really learn through our thousand practice through our study practice through working with teachers
that we have the ability we have the ability to learn to respond authentically appropriately in each situation and at the same time we have the ability to transform ourselves to become the type of orange that we that we
the most
aspire to become

so i want to the unpack a little of this and talk talk about
about right speech you know the
the buddha spoke about right speech and he
four different aspects to right speech
the first the first is being loyal to the truth
and so this is this basically means you know telling the truth and of course this is this is not always this is not always so easy
so for being loyal to the truth and pay attention to the truth means
really becoming so familiar with with what you're what is your intention
what what are you seeing no in
i saw recently in this was actually a a a business presentation about about telling the truth and it was a presentation that had a picture of a of a ladder and it was called the ladder of inference

somewhere i actually wrote notes on this but i think i can basically remember
right so this ladder of inference showed that down on the bottom is the is the data right it's as though it's as though you have a video camera watching the watching the world watching what's happening then the next step up the ladder is is the data that you select
kt what you have great because there's that guy
i saw statistic on this the other day i think it said that at in in any
in any moment of time i think the number that i saw was forty million there are forty million pieces of data that ours that our senses are able to take in
and in any in any moment forty million pieces of data and and we and our minds have the ability to actually acknowledge about forty of those
so what happens to the other you know thirty nine million i mean these these are
again this feels like to me this is part of the orange juice like all of all of those things that were taking in our
are who we are how so been getting back to this ladder of inference so first the bottom rung of the ladder is just the raw data next up is what we select our the forty pieces that we that we decide to see next up is
the meaning you know the sort of meaning that we decided to give how what what the context is about these about these pieces of data than next up are the assumptions and beliefs we make about these various meanings and then high and then and then at the top of the ladder
is what we decide to say what we actually say so there's this there's this huge
process that happens in our speech between the that the situation and all of the things that happened in between and then what we decide what we decide to say and so this makes this being loyal to the truth and actually telling the truth becomes big
comes a whole different kind of challenge right so it becomes suddenly it becomes bruh
teaching the work of an entire lifetime to know ourselves intimately enough so that we we're not we're not fooling ourselves we're not being fooled by the by the data that we pick and by what we decide to say and the and
get so many different layers of possibilities here

one question and mean one of the things that that i think tremendously effects this right speech is the question that i would pose what what false beliefs do you have about yourself
what false beliefs do you have about yourself
and i think i think most of us
have a variety of false beliefs about about ourselves about our own
our own competence our own power our own abilities some of us may
in an it and these false beliefs may be different in different situations we may we may think in some situations that were more competent or more powerful or more connected than we actually are and and other situations we may
we may have the opposite when they have very much the opposite kind of false belief about ourselves and our own our own place in the world
i think
an example that i think of this in terms of being loyal to the truth and right speech
there's a
there's a a fairly high
business executive that i've been working with and in the role of coach and
and he was he was kind of complaining and complaining and whining in a way to me about
the decisions that are being made above him right that that that the boss keeps making these decisions about you know for the company and i'm in fact he described this particular person described to me that he feels he feels like he's in the back of a taxi and it's out of control that he has no say about
where this taxi is going
and what's fascinating in this situation is when i have conversations with his boss who's boss says i wish this person would speak up i wish this person would express his own views and truth and he he's oh it could you please help this person
he's always is always feeling is always kind of whining at meetings and not expressing himself clearly and so this is the case where this this is an example of a none of us ever do this right
this is an example of a person who has when when i begin to work with him i can see that he has he has this belief and as as i began to work with them the belief that he had was that that he couldn't ask for way
he wants but asking for what he wants is not okay and
and it was really interesting to be you know working with him in this know this was in this business environment on the subject of where did he get this idea that that it was not okay to ask for what he wants and to see how much over and over again this colored
his speech and i said something to him like i said you know when we're when we're babies when when were born
we're all pretty much experts as babies that asking for what we want we just completely you know when when we're in pain and need something we cry when we're happy we laugh when we want something from our mothers we we we ask for it and that
and that but we're all in a were all raised by a imperfect human beings and somehow we are pretty quickly taught in a way to not ask for what we want in in various ways and as i was describing this to this person i could see tears started
rolling down his eyes and he looked at me and said
you know i'm teaching my children to not ask for what they want and
this is a this is a particularly
wonderful one i think for
a subject of right speech and the practice of of zen right because i think
i think sometimes people may interpret zen practice as as learning to not ask for what you want right cause
that there's a way in which
there's something there's a there's a sense of austerity there's a sense in in i mean in zazen practice it's completely southern practice is completely being opening yourself to whatever comes up and
and things come up that
it may not be it may not be appropriate to respond to write so a lot of a lot of zazen practice is learning to not respond to to a lot of different things
but i'm i'm kind of putting forth hear that
an appropriate response is not as simple as it might seem right if you if you are some people have the opposite problem they're always asking for what they want
so there's no there's no easy answer here to this being loyal being loyal to the truth what the answer
it is to develop deep deep listening practice deep deep listening practice to yourself and and to others
the second
the second suggestion of the barbuda to the first is being loyal to the truth
the second is not creating harm
right say the the buddha says that the second guideline in the practice of right speech is to is to have speech that does not create harm
so this is really interesting one right about even going back to this example
i gave about asking for what you want so sometimes sometimes asking for what you want can create harm sometimes not asking for what you want might be a way of a harming yourself so there's no there's no there's no answer key to this it is
i think one of
one of the practices that i want to encourage anne enright speech is the practice of engagement the practice of of
authentically and fully engaging engaging with yourself and engaging with with other people
heck there's a someone one of my mentors recently taught me
a what he called you called this a co-operative decision making co-operative decision-making so i would suggest to look into yourself and see on a scale if you had to make a scale of on one side is that you pretty much do everything yourself
and on the other side is that you are always cooperate and you're always getting feedback from other people about decisions were were on that continuum do you tend to fall
and i was surprised i was really surprised that when i really looked at it for myself that i i was way down in the making decisions by myself that when i particularly when i was when i was squeezed right so me
as an orange
that i had a real tendency to think that i really needed to do this by myself that that was that was i think canada or false belief that i've learned and i've been i've been really experimenting with when i have a decision to make to reach out to a
friends and family to you know your even with my
this this weekend is my my twenty fifth wedding anniversary and
it's amazing how after two thousand and five years how little i feel like i know i know my wife and how little i feel that she knows me and this is pretty actually pretty wonderful how boring it would be right if we thought that we that we knew each other
but this issue like this is there's so many things that i feel like i'm i'm exploring and learning about myself like this issue of a co-operative decision making
in another
at another interesting area in this
well maybe we'll go onto a number three is so first is being loyal to the truth second is not creating harm or third is not exaggerating the practice of not exaggerating
and again this is
that's pretty difficult this is pretty difficult stuff this is really a lifetime practice

i was thinking in terms of my own in terms of my own life
know for many for many years i was a leading i started and led a publishing company and and it was very difficult business that that had many many ups and downs and
i've if i look back i think that i was often may be exaggerating how well things were going
that that i in some way i felt that it was it was a my job to always be portraying how good things were and that i was always trying to get people people's energy up factors and i think i think many many come
many leaders many visionaries many entrepreneurs have this is kind of this kind of tendency i remember in in my business i was experimenting with this practice of right speech and when i noticed that i was exaggerating i decided to not do that
and for a while i found i went too far the other way i started painting painting too bleak picture you know like what what what is that what is the truth here of how of how this businesses really doing and
and i realize they're they're really they're really was no there really is no truth to how our business is doing there's no truth
there's no one truth to how your life is now this doesn't mean that you should ignore it should ignore difficulties right if you have a if you have a friend if you have a friend who's having real problems with some kind of addiction or anger or difficulty
i'm exaggerating would be to not be looking into the truth of what's really happening
the fourth the fourth guideline of the buddha about right speech is relieving suffering it's a speech that relieves suffering
and this is this is very very powerful i think
idea about right speech how is it that we could have speech that
relieves suffering
i've also just imagining
imagine if we had a government that followed these rules about right speech being loyal to the truth not creating harm not exaggerating and relieving suffering i think these are just such powerful powerful way to live our lives
one of the things about
if we look at our speech
almost almost everything that we say in our speech has there's there's three different components or at least there's many ways to talk about it about this but three components of our speech there's the content
there's the emotion and then there's our own identity
and most of the time again i think i think if we look at it
almost almost all of our attention is aimed at the content of our speech right there's so much so much
so much about any kind of discussion and negotiation agreement it's almost all very much aimed around this idea of content about what is being said and and yet if we start to pay attention there's almost always an emotion peace there's almost always how how are
are we feeling how are we actually feeling about it how is the person that we're talking to feeling in this conversation and then often even often looming in the background even really really driving the conversation is our own our own sense of identity
and by identity i mean do we you know this is this is tying back to this idea what are the what are the beliefs that we have about ourselves i are we are we do we think that is our identity as being a good practitioner a good
are we someone who's competent are we someone who's
fierce are we someone who is able to think quickly on our feet and and so often in in conversation
this sense of our own identity is often woods
what's driving this sense of when we as an orange or squeezed this is what what's coming out this is what's coming out so i think they're really the the practice of right speech at the heart of it is the practice of deep deep listening deep deep listening
to ourselves and to others and to to really look to really look at what are these beliefs we have what are this what are these what are our feelings what are the
identities that we that we have that so often are are just beneath the surface but then can surprise us and come out in our speech

yeah i think one of the things that i want to
so i want to encourage i want to encourage all of us to
engage with this practice of of right speech
does being loyal to the truth not creating harm not exaggerating and relieving suffering
and i think
one of the things too
realized within this there's there's another piece to this which is that you will make mistakes right that that time
fact i was thinking i was thinking of a
i know i've talked a couple times about my love of improvisation i've been i've been taking improv classes now for a couple of years
again you know as a way to terrorize myself even more than i generally feel feel terrorized and i had the i had the wonderful privilege of taking a an improv class with keith johnston was who was here i think not so long ago and he probably one of the things that i
that keith taught me and that i keep having to remind myself of which he talks about it in an improv but i think it really works well in in rights in this practice of right speech as well he said that an improv the secret is to not always try and look good
that you need to you need to be experiment and you need to be pushing beyond your boundaries and that it's okay it's okay to look foolish it's really okay to look foolish and in fact is that an improv people are not paying you to look good they're paying you to look foolish
but they're not paying you to look foolish and then feel bad about yourself
what they're really paying you for is to look foolish and feel good about yourself and i think so this is this is i think in order to really practice right speech you need to be able to
to see what comes out and be able to be willing to make mistakes and feel good about it
also i think it's important to recognize that our intentions are complex if we really if we really look at ourselves
our own intentions are very complex so should give ourselves
a little bit of space about this practice of read speech and seeing the complexity of our intentions
the third thing that i think is really useful in the practice of rage right speech is to is to realize that in any problem and any difficulty probably you are part of the problem
that you are probably part of the problem right because there is there is no there is no objective truth and his idea of appropriate response and
it's not a bad starting point to look to look at how how you what is your what is your contribution
to the difficulty and problem that that you may be having with someone else and the and the last point that i think i'd make about right speech is the recognition that this is a of wonderful quote by suzuki roshi in which he says you are perfect just as you are
you're perfect just as you are and you can use a little improvement
we all we all of course tend to most you know all of us as human beings we seem to be wired to mostly hearing the the improvement art
it's much harder for us to let in that that you are perfect just as you are and i think
to practice to practice with
what is the teaching of an entire lifetime an appropriate response is in a way to trust that you are perfect just as you are and that also that
when you squeeze in orange you will get orange used to trust that inside inside of you is that you are perfect just as you are when this is that you that you are buddha nature you everything about you is good and nature is
and i think i want to
read something suzuki roshi and then my beginner's mind
there's a chapter he called communication in which he talks a little bit about it going to read a a short piece about what suzuki roshi has to say about right speech
to understand reality as a direct experience is the reason we practice zazen and the reason we study buddhism
through the study of buddhism you will understand your human nature your intellectual falck faculty and the truth present in human activity
and you can take this human nature of yours into consideration when you seek to understand reality
when you listen to someone you should give up all your preconceived ideas and your subjective opinions you should just listen just observe what her or his way is we put very little emphasis on right and wrong are good and bad we just see things
as they are with her or him and accept them this is how we communicate with each other

it is difficult to have good communication between parents and children and i would say this applies and to not only parents and children but almost all relationships it is difficult to have good communication between parents and children because parents always have their own intentions their intentions are nearly all
he's good but the way they speak or the way they express themselves as often not so free it is usually too one sided and not realistic
we each have our own way of expressing ourselves and it is difficult to change the way according to the circumstances
if parents can manage to express themselves in various ways according to each situation there will be no danger in the education of their children this however is rather difficult even a zen teacher has his own way

please them
practice with them an appropriate response and noticed the
wonderful orange juice that that you are thank you very much
to have an really